Flames erupting all around. Chaos exploding out of every broken nook and decimated corner. Chains clanking and lashing at every turn as the drones of hell suffer in an unending cycle of misery, pain and torment. Torturers screeching obscenities, barking orders and delivering unenviable agony upon the poor slaves grafting away.
Oh hang on, I’m not supposed to be talking about my work office…
Hell of an Office, which definitely, absolutely, doesn’t define the majority of capitalistic workspaces, is a supersonically fast platformer with the look of Ghost Rider’s nightmares, or dreams, I dunno. Releasing out of Early Access today, it currently has 40 levels available of a promised 100, with regular updates and content expansions planned for release over the coming months of 2023.
Can you make a successful escape from the fiery bowels of Hades himself or will you ultimately be consumed in Orpheus levels of abject failure? Snap your stapler, click your best ballpoint pen, it’s time to dive into this hellish workplace.
Hell Of A Rush Hour
Hell of an Office gives precisely 0.000001% of a damn when it comes to giving you any kind of real context. You’re in hell, it’s an office. There’s lava gobbling everything up from beneath you and your only salvation from its abyss is to dash, rocket jump and traverse your way through each intricately crafted map.
Armed with nothing but an office staple – the err… stapler – you can blast yourself into the air by firing it directly at any surface near you with RT. Similarly, you can dash yourself across large gaps with LT. The pace is ridiculously rapid, like a person rushing to the toilet after realising that their gust of wind is maybe more than they bargained for. That devilish curry always catches out an unsuspecting co-worker.
Across the first 20 levels, you’re only expected to mix dashes with jumps across increasingly smaller platforms, climbing and climbing until you reach the end goal. It naturally becomes more complicated, requiring 180° spins followed by a dash into another wall you have to rocket jump off before desperately dashing into the end goal. You know, the usual slapdash escape efforts from the pits of the underworld.
Once you hit levels 20-40, things get more tricky. Sonic speed ring tunnels you’ll need to dash in-and-out of with precision, teleporting doors that can deceive and disorient you. While the tools at your disposal are very few, the way Hell of an Office mixes up the sequences of platforming and the precision required means it’s a challenging and rewarding experience.
Which is good, cause you’ll be consumed by the fires of Hell dozens of times.
Spare A Second For Our
Lord and Saviour Demon Tormentor
Mistakes are very much part of the core design of lightning quick platforming games. Hell of an Office is no exception to this torturous rule. You can instantly restart any level by hitting Y, which is both welcome thanks to no loading, but also an eternal nightmare should you accidentally hit it in a panic at the end of a level. Yes, it happened more than once to me. No, I’m definitely not bitter about it.
Thankfully, levels are generally short and snappy. Most can be completed in under 20 seconds, with a couple even being less than 5. This is following the designated, obvious route too. Hell of an Office does a good job of setting up a clear path to take for those of us who are less creatively inclined.
The real fun begins when you start experimenting with the demonic environments slowly being consumed around you. A giant lighter or Goliath sized printer isn’t just there to sell the atmosphere of your dreaded normal life that’s been condemned, they’re also a potential shortcut option.
Learning the maps takes a lot of practice if you want to hit the fastest completion times, which is where the game’s replayability potential becomes apparent. Having just finished Neon White for the 4th time (and earning the platinum), it’s apparent that Hell of an Office still has a bit of atoning to do when it comes to incentivising and encouraging higher skilled play.
For example, there’s no hint or indication of which shortcuts can work, nor what environmental objects actually make sense to use. Small details like Neon White’s hand symbols to indicate a shortcut without telling you went a long way to hypnotising me into continually practicing, which is slightly missing in Hell of an Office.
Given this is supposedly an atmosphere of eternal torment however, maybe that’s kind of the point?
Diamond In The Lava
Hell of an Office already has medals based on what times you manage to set for each level. Currently it’s Bronze -> Silver -> Gold -> Diamond, with Diamond proving almost completely elusive to me at this stage. There’s no other current reward for hitting higher medals which is again a bit of a shame and something I hope is added as the game receives updates.
There are some creative cosmetics for your handy stapler which are far cooler than they have any right to be and leaderboards are already functional to compare your hellscape escape skills to other would-be underworld ascenders.
In terms of raw pixels, Hell of an Office probably isn’t the most impressive, but this is made up for pretty substantially in terms of level design and visual conceptions. Every level feels packed with small artistic details like mismatched pencils erupting from the ground, office junk floating along the paths and what not.
The backgrounds are largely ignored thanks to the frantic pace of the gameplay itself, but if you stop to take in the flame-infused sights of the punished land, there’s plenty to admire. Each chapter is comprised of 10 levels, with chapters all having a distinct visual theme to prevent the aesthetics feeling dull. As it turns out, Hell can come in all manner of colours and palettes. Devil in the detail and all that.
Most importantly, Hell of an Offices’ performance runs smoother than the river Styx. A rock-solid FPS coupled with gorgeously smooth animation and fantastic mechanic movement means it’s very clear what each action does, allowing you to gauge your movement superbly. It’s small things but a game like this requires absolute precision so the fine margins have a massive impact on the overall experience.
Should Have Worked From Home?
Aside from what I’ve already mentioned, my only working irritations with Hell of an Office are the occasional sections that feel slightly less tight in terms of design. A slightly too small or misplaced platform or a mission that seems to be too long for its own time limit, that kind of thing.
Much of this is likely to be ironed out as development continues and I’m certainly not against the idea that it’s probably intentional to push the skill ceiling higher for master parkour fans.
From the 40 levels I was able to play, I had a blast. I ran through the missions 3 times, each attempt taking about 20-30 minutes, so it’s fair say the final product probably won’t have a particularly long runtime overall. As anyone who’s suffered their fair share of insufferably long office meetings can attest however, short and snappy is probably a wiser choice. “Could have been an email” certainly won’t apply here – if that isn’t high enough praise I don’t know what is.
However, if the developers keep up the high standard of level design and creative platforming tricks they’ve shown off so far, there’s a very good platforming game awaiting it’s annual appraisal from hell in here. I hope more features can be added to reward the player, incentivise progress and encourage re-runs for faster times. You know, like that once-in-a-million manager that actually doesn’t hate their subordinates.
You might not be able to escape your real office hell, but Hell of an Office provides an exciting and exhilerating alternative as a fantasy getaway plan.
Hell of an Office at present is a short and incomplete sample of what is a fast, frantic and adrenaline-fuelled good time. The core design is sound, the aesthetic and atmosphere are on fire, the platforming tight and rewarding (for the most part). Escaping the clutches of hellish office cubicles and inane paperwork hasn’t felt this satisfying since you last handed in your notice. Probably.
Hell of an Office is available now on PC via Early Access (review platform).
Developer: 43 Studios
Publisher: Joystick Ventures
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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